McKinney Gypsy Caravan

One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

Category: Ireland (page 2 of 2)

Day 5- The Wild Atlantic Way

Sorry you got an alert a bit ago to a new post. Norah decided to help. I had just started and she decided to grab and my phone and POOF! Her magic fingers hit just the right spot. Lol

We call it “shark mode” when she gets sleepy because if she stops moving she’ll die like a shark. Lol

So anyway- here you go – the complete post haha

We started our day again with another “full Irish”. I know, I just said how I couldn’t eat it every day…but this one was free with the room. 

 

We left Dingle and headed north towards Limerick. It wasn’t long before signs pointed us to another random castle. This area just has castle ruins everywhere. We seriously saw 7 or more old ruined castles today. Some of them I couldn’t even find on the maps!

We came to the town of Ballybunion and I had seen some pictures online of this castle, so we stopped. Turns out there was a playground at the car park, so someone had to ride a chicken. 

   

 

We kept going toward Limerick, which our B&B host told us used to be nicknamed “Stab City”… But that it had been cleaned up in recent years.  Limerick has St John’s castle which is a really well preserved and restored castle. 

Remember the story a couple days ago of how the Irish rebelled in the 1640s and things went well for about 10 years until Cromwell set the whole island on fire?  Well when the Irish Rebellion of 1641 was going well, all of the Protestsnts in the area fled to this castle. So when the Irish got there, having no canons or other artillery to bombard the castle, they started digging out the foundations around the waters and now most of the outer walls have deteriorated. 

   

  

            

 

Leaving Limerick, we hit a few other small things on our way to Galway, the biggest being the Cliffs of Moher. Very amazing…but way touristy. They built a shopping strip into the side of the hill opposite the cliff. Come on! 

  

We did stumble upon this gem. Can’t remember the name now… Too bad it’s only unlocked from June-Sept… It seemed pretty cool inside.   

      

Along the roadway we saw this marker, so we pulled over. Turns out it’s St Brigid’s Well- the patron saint of healing”. People come here from all over to ask for healing of various conditions.  Apparently a very sacred Catholic place for the locals.. Who knew…

Next we passed through Kilfenora, or “The City of Crosses’. An amazing cemetary and church that housed an eight foot high cross. 

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

   

Last stop before Galway was to visit the Poulnadrome Dolman. A portal tomb that dates from prehistoric times. They think they have dated the human remains of this tomb to around 3000 BC. 

It sits in this thick limestone region called The Burren which looks like the lunar surface at times lol

   

      

Norah enjoyed all of the running today 🙂

 

Lastly we arrived at Salthill Promonade in Galway- we rented an apartment from a guy for the night here from AirBNB. (love that site!) it has an awesome view of the bay here

   

We walked down the hill and gambled a little at one of the many casinos here on this strip… 

(I didn’t win) 🙂 

  

  We ate at an amazing Indian restaurant downtown here too that just opened. Best Indian food I’ve ever had!

   

   

I am TIRED today- sorry this post is “mailed in” a bit and probably has a thousand typos since I’m doing the head bob trying to finish this before falling asleep!  🙂 headed to sleep to do it again tomorrow 🙂

Day 4- The Dingle Peninsula

Today was Part 1 of the Wild Atlantic Way. An amazing seafront drive along the western coast of Ireland. Not a ton of known things to see, just kind of a meandering along the way and stopping at anything that seems like a worthwhile detour.

We woke up early. Norah was only up until 3:45am last night. 15 minutes sooner! Win? Lol so two nights in a row I’ve had less than 4 hours of sleep. Tonight is Kegan’s turn…but she was back awake early today with no nap…so we may have turned the corner. I really think she’ll finally be on track tonight. Fingers crossed 🙂

Our hostess at the Carraig Laith House Bed and Breakfast made us a “Full Irish” to start our day. It has cooked tomatoes, white and black pudding, rashers, sausages and an egg. Definitely not something you could eat every day…but it was awesome. 

 

On our way off the Kerry Peninsula we stopped alongside the road at this sculpture dedicated to St. Brendon. He is the patron saint of travelers and sailors and probably the most famous saint from this area of Ireland.

He was born almost a hundred years after St Patrick and St Declan at the birth of Irish Christianity (like 500AD or so?)….by this time Christianity WAS the religion. The legend was that angels appeared over the house when St Brenden was born and he was marked to be special- because of this, his parents left him as a baby with the Bishop to be educated and raised. Can you imagine- you just gave birth to your baby- some priest shows up with his following of disciples and says “your baby is special…God has big plans for him, Angels just appeared over the house to tell us- we’d like to keep him. Hope you don’t mind.”  WHAT? Lol

But he did grow up and found many monasteries and convents and spread the faith. On the top of what is now Mt Brandon, he supposedly had a vision of the promised land. He set out with his monk disciples on a 7 year journey…where it’s believed he made it to Iceland, Greenland and even possibly America! …and returned to Ireland. Sort of unbelievable for the time…but that explains the statue:

  

The next town, Killorglin, we went through had the most unusual statue in its town center. A Goat King. His name is King Puck. For one weekend a year, they crown a goat King for the weekend. 

From their website:

Puck Fair (In Irish Aonach an Phoic, meaning “Fair of the He-Goat”, ‘poc’ being the Irish for a male goat) is one of Ireland’s oldest fairs

Every year a goat catcher goes up into the mountains to catch a wild goat. The goat is brought back to the town and the “Queen of Puck”, traditionally a young school girl from one of the local primary schools, crowns the goat “King Puck“.

On August 10th, The “King” is then paraded through the town before being elevated onto a high stand in the town square for three days. On the 3rd day of the fair, he is brought down to be led back to his mountain home. In the middle of the town square, he is crowned which signifies that the festivities may begin.

Too bad we weren’t here in August. Lol

   

   

We continued on around to the next peninsula, the Dingle peninsula- the most western point of mainland Europe. We came upon Inch beach as the first main pull off from the main drag. We hit it at low tide so we could really see just how wide and flat the beach was down from the cliffs we were driving on.

 

Driving further, we saw a sign for Min Aird (Minard) Castle. I hadn’t seen anything about this anywhere so I figured it must just be something not worth seeing but we took a detour anyway. So happy we did. It was the best part of the day. This old castle was another destroyed by Cromwell’s army- only this one had only been built about a hundred years before by the Fitzgeralds. So sad. I want to buy it and restore it. This place was the epitome of perfection in Ireland. I wonder what the going rate for an oceanfront castle is these days…

The approach from the side road 

The beach here is what is called a “storm beach”  because the big boulders are smoothed by rolling around the ocean floor with the tides and then during huge storms they are thrown around and sometimes out the water, collecting here.

At low tide the beach is very sandy but at high tide the sand is covered. Can you imagine this being your morning walk after waking up in your castle? 😉 

  

 A view from the beach 

A fresh water stream ran right in front of the castle, over the rounded rocks and put into the ocean. Fresh water and sea water right together.   

  The constructed walls around the stream leading to the ocean.

  

After leaving this site and back on the Main road, we saw our first Ireland rainbow. It was faint but definitely cool.

This took us to the town of Dingle. We walked around the town and looked at a few shops. Found a farmers market where were able to find beetroot and carrot soup and Kegan found some artisan salami: venison and chorizo and some sort of strange salad hand pie

  

  

  

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After Dingle begins the Slea Head Drive around the rim of the peninsula, with the first major site to see being the Beehive Huts along the side of the road.

These are from BC times and they were used until around 1100AD. The guy who I assume owns the land has set up a booth to take 3 euro to see it, so we obliged. 

   

      

 

We had some friendly seagulls stop on the hood of our car when we got back  

 

A cross looking out over the ocean further along the drive.  

I had Kegan photograph the road I was driving on for all of this. One lane wide with a rock face one side and a rock wall on the other. You figure out how to pass a car on that! 

      

I walked to the edge of our lookout point and saw people getting in! It’s like 45 degrees outside.  

On around, I met some more locals 🙂 

  

We toured the Gallarus Oratory- the only surviving example of this specific type of architecture remaining in Ireland. The masons that built it used no mortar and now 1000-1200 years later- it’s still waterproof! Insane. The stones are angled slightly down to that no water runs inside. Genius.

This was an early Christian church for the people of the area. 

  

  

  Photo from inside turned out cool due to the rain on my lens here.

This pretty much completed the loop and we headed back to a Dingle to check into our hotel. We ate dinner in Dingle at a little restaurant called Out of The Blue.

Fish chowder for appetizer

  I had the grilled monkfish tail

Kegan had the whole Plaice fish.

I regrettably googled “monkfish” after ordering. I shouldn’t have. That is one scary fish- but his tail is delicious. lol

Yeah…you’re welcome for the nightmares, too.  Who decides that this should be on a restaurant menu??? If I caught that, I’d think it needed an exorcism.   

After dinner we headed to a local pub for drinks and we had hoped some traditional music. Turns out they only do live music most places during “season” – the summer when everyone goes to Ireland and we are a few weeks too early.

That’s ok though, we sat and talked to the cook and bartender for a couple hours and had the place to ourselves. They even let me borrow an iPhone charging cable so I could type this blog up while we drank. UPDATE: I just received a text from my mother that Norah is asleep. At 11pm! 🙂 I guess we can wrap it up and head back to the lodge and actually get some sleep! 

  

   

Day 3 – Cork, Blarney Castle and the Ring of Kerry

Day 3 was a full day! I feel like we did so much and still arrived at our bed and breakfast ahead of schedule!

I’d love to start the blog by showing you pictures of the Blarney Castle, which I assure you we went to this morning first thing and were the only people on the entire castle grounds! And Kegan kissed the Blarney Stone…and I climbed all the way to the top! 

But… It was at this point I realized that my camera was saying “No Card”.

Damn.

After uploading my photos last night, I was too tired to get back up and put my card back in my camera, instead leaving it on the bedside table to put back in the morning. Between rolling around and Norah staying awake until 4am (Yeah. 4am. Lol) it apparently was knocked into the floor and we left town without it. 

So I called the hotel and they easily found it and we went back to Cork to pick it up. Phew. That could have been bad for the blog posting! 🙂

And then we were off again. And instead of giving Donna crap for putting the half-gallon of milk in the cooler half open and flooding our lunches, or blowing up both power converters because she doesn’t understand basic electricity, or only bringing a 500 Euro which is basically the equivalent of Monopoly money here because no one will take a bill that large… Wait…what was I getting at? Oh yeah, so now we are making fun of me for trying to lose our pictures and making us backtrack to the driving hellhole that was Cork. Ha

We headed south along the coast and saw our first megalithic site- the Drombeg Stone Circle. Aptly named because it’s in the town of Drombeg…and they are stones..in a circle.

They aren’t exactly sure what these stone circles were used for- whether it was burial ritual or sacrificial in nature… But they were definitely important. And usually located in some amazing spot. This one was no exception. This site is over 3000 years old. 3000. Like 1100BC. I can’t even wrap my head around that. 





The sign posted said that they would use these springs, which could hold almost 70 gallons of water, for cooking. They would throw heated stones into the water from a fire nearby and it could bring the entire thing to a boil in under 20 minutes.





Amazing view.

Next we drove through a cute little town called Bandy with this awesome Main Street 





Then, we were supposed to take a road that went through a mountain and had a rock tunnel to drive through, but we missed the turn and actually ended up seeing the most amazing views by going directly OVER the mountain! Haha

It was called Priest’s Leap…and it looked like another planet in places! It is this huge barren sandstone mountain and the road goes straight up. We made friends with the locals though. (baaahhhh) 









Legend has it that a priest lept from the top of this mountain while evading English soldiers and landed miles away in the aforementioned town of Bandy. The rock he lept from then melted and swallowed the chasing hounds. Supposedly you can still see the “pawprints” in a rock at the summit… And another rock in Bantry holds the marks of the horse hooves where the priest landed…but I can’t verify because I didn’t know the story until I researched tonight…and surprisingly- there was no cell service up there! 🙂





When finally came down off of the mountain, we headed towards Killarney National Park to see Torc Waterfall

It was back a trail that looked like something out of a fairy tale. Moss covered rocks and trees…so cool.







Could this thing be any cuter? 



We did a quick drive by of another 15th century Tower castle – Ross Castle since it was just a couple miles away. This was the last holdout in the Munster area in the 1600s against the eventual English takeover by Cromwell’s army.

Most of the ruined castles basically go back to the Cromwell invasion. Irish/English history is so complicated and long..but Cliff notes version: Henry VIII decided he didn’t like how Ireland’s Gaelic tribe leaders- the Fitzgeralds – were treating the Tudors so he decided to just take over Ireland, not recognize the Fitzgeralds anymore and install a new “leader” in Ireland. Then remember that England was Protestant and they hated Catholics…the English parliament basically executed King Charles I for being too catholic and this created this open and acceptable hatred of Catholics- they couldn’t hold government positions, Catholicism was outlawed, etc. This didn’t go over well and eventually the Irish rebelled and more or less “won” for about 10 years until Oliver Cromwell showed up and basically demolished the entire island in the 1650s. They killed anyone that was involved in the rebellion, they shipped off anyone who owned land to be slaves in the West Indies, they burned all the crops and lands therefore causing a famine AND bubonic plague hit about the same time. So, in a nutshell that’s why everything here is ruins instead of amazing castles. Estimates say Ireland lost one third of its entire population during this time. It was not a good time to be Irish. So, again- catholism was illegal, Catholics couldn’t live in town…absolute insanity. After a king was finally placed back over England, a lot of the crazy anti-Catholic laws didn’t stand… But Irish Catholics have always been the hated second class citizens to the English. Lol



Anyway, back from my nerdy history detour- We took some “backroads” which I’m quickly learning in Ireland basically means a half paved one lane driveway. I’m dead serious- other than the main highways, every road is a one lane road. Wasn’t expecting that… But I’m adapting. 

Along the road around Dunloe were these old Ogham Stones. They had been found around the area and displayed here. Ogham is a very old Celtric written language. Seems to originate around 3-400AD…. The lines actually are sort of like a code. We discussed it in the car…it makes more sense that this may have been a secret code by the Celts because by 300AD, the Romans controlled the area, with their Latin language…it wouldn’t make sense that there wasn’t a written language at all but the Celts may have needed a way to communicate without the Romans knowing.





We ended our day by driving some of the Ring of Kerry- an amazing oceanfront stretch of road in the southeast corner of Ireland.



This led us to our bed and breakfast for the night, just outside of Portmagee where we ate dinner at a traditional Irish pub.

Since its a harbor fishing town- I got the fish platter and seafood chowder. Kegan had fish and chips and Donna had Irish stew.





Day 2 – Cashel, Kilkenny and Cork

We left Dublin bright and early after some coffee and Irish breakfast. Like our staples would be bacon, sausage, biscuits, scrambled eggs, irish staples are black and white pudding (basically some sort of sausage/oat/spice mixture pressed together- it was amazing!) poached eggs, rashers-which are kind of like a cross between bacon and ham, and croissants. We headed south out of Dublin towards the town of Kilkenny.

On our way, we passed the Rock of Dunamase-an early castle now just ruins on a hill. I found an audio tour for my phone, so we walked around. It was easy to tell why the site would have been chosen back around the year 800. This rock shoots straight up out of the lowlands with the majority of the sides being unscalable. 

If you’ve never seen the History Channel show “Vikings” – go watch it now! If you have then you know how the Vikings terrorized England and Ireland for a couple hundred years around this time. Also, if you watch Vikings, you’ll love this fact: one of the earliest artifacts they’ve found at the site was a gold coin- with the inscription of King Egbert of Wessex.

Wessex was a kingdom on the south east shore of England…King Egbert was its King from about 800-840. So the theory of how that coin ended up all the way at the top of a rock in the middle of Ireland is that it was dropped by a Viking during a raid and battle at Dunamase given that Vikings raided the area and they were establishing farmlands in Wessex under authorization of Egbert.

Next we drove through Kilkenny and stopped a grocery store to get some meats/cheeses/bread and some milk for the tiny tyrant. This way we could picnic a couple lunches this week on our way  through the countryside.

After that we stopped to see the Rock of Cashel- another castle. This one in much better shape but still a ruin. St Patrick baptized the King of Munster here at this castle so it’s also called St Patrick’s rock.

Even though most of these ruins are from around 1100-1200AD, there was definitely other structures here for hundreds of years before. 

The large cathedral and the round tower are very clearly products of the Viking and Norman invasions. They would use these to spot an attack coming miles away and to hide their valuable items during an attack. The first window is 12 feet high. The monks would climb a ladder to the entrance then pull the ladder up behind him. 

We continued towards Cork via the curviest single lane road you can imagine through a little town called Cappoquin that had some cool bridges.

 

Finally- we arrived in Cork. Wow. This city is amazing- but the streets were not meant for cars! Everything seemed single lane wide and people didn’t  get over! 🙂  it was stressful. Lol and I didn’t get many good pictures because of the driving…maybe tomorrow I will 😉

We did seek out St Finne Barre cathedral to drive by since the sun hasn’t set yet.


Had some fish and chips and a pint of Beamish, a Guinness-esque dark ale, in the hotel restaurant tonight. Did not disappoint. Also we discovered “Brown Sauce” tonight which is basically an amazing mixture of Worchestershire sauce and Heinz 57.

Day 1 -Dublin

We arrived around 7am Dublin time (really like 3am our East coast time) but no rest for the wicked…we had a full day planned!

So, a change of clothes and off to the rental car counter to rent our home away from home. We were given a Hyundai crossover SUV with ZERO trunk space. Cars are just different over here! Lol

Now, the massive fun part- I got to try my hand at driving on the “wrong” side of the road…and the wrong side of the car none the less! That is no easy task to retrain your brain …driving on no sleep…into the heart of downtown. Lol

But…it was a success and we arrived at the “car park” in one piece…and only a couple minor scares 🙂 I’m an old pro now. Ha! Kegan and Mom “yelled” at me because my ADD brain saw a TicTac billboard that said #MadeInIreland… “Erin! Eyes off the billboards” haha no faith in me…at all. Lol

We grabbed coffee at this cool little market next to the hotel and then hitched an Uber ride across Dublin to start walking our way back through the city.

We started at the Famine Memorial. If you have Irish heritage in the US… More than likely you can trace it back to people who immigrated to the U.S. Between around 1835-1855. The Irish claim their greatest export has always been people…and it’s true. There have historically always been few opportunities for Irish farmers. Even back during the time of the famine- farmers weren’t farming for themselves like we think of. They farmed rich English landowner’s lands- in return, they were allowed to build a shack of a house on the land and were usually paid for most of their work in potatoes. The Great Potato Famine was due to a fungus or blite to the potato crop that year… And therefore, millions of Irish starved or emigrated before they starved… And what’s really sad is that we imagine a destitute country with no food, but actually there were plenty of crops still growing and being exported at the time in Ireland…but their government demanded that no impact to trade occur and would not recognize the fact that land barons were literally watching their workers and “commonfolk” starve and wouldn’t pass any laws that would help the irish people. An all too common disconnect throughout Irish history. (*Democrat alert- haha I venture to say this may be a very early case study in why trickle down economics doesnt work)

This British Protestant vs Irish Catholic feud is the major theme through much of the history of modern Ireland. The Easter Rebellion of 1916 was a major outbreak of violence that eventually led to the independence of an Irish free state in 1920.

The site they erected the famine memorial is where the first ship took off out of Dublin bound for the U.S. with its first set of passengers. I imagine a boat like that one tied up to the anchors still visible on the street.






Next we were on a mission to find SIM cards for our phones. AT&T has plans but nothing that actually included any data and they charge $19.99 a MB over their tiny plan. A MB…not a GB. My normally monthly data usage would have cost me about $2,000!

So… To further prove what crooks US Cell carriers are- we were able to get a SIM card for my phone for $20 that included unlimited calls, texts and data for 30 days.

An iPad data card with unlimited is $15….and we think everything is so much more expensive over here. Lol

We crossed the Trinity bridge to the campus of Trinity College. 



I had been waiting to see this for years. The long room of Trinity Library. An amazing site! It houses books that are hundreds of years old. Some hand written and bound on vellum…including the famous Book of Kells. This is probably Ireland’s most famous antiquity. It was handwritten and handdrawn in Latin in a monestary around the year 800. 





It’s kind of amazing, that around the time the rest of Europe was in its dark ages, Ireland’s new found Christian religion (brought to them by none other than St Patrick- a Roman boy who was kidnapped and sold into slavery by the Irish, only to escape years later, study to be a minister and came back to Ireland to spead the word of Christianity) was producing the greatest works in a very enlightened era.

Next we were supposed to walk along to Christ Church Cathedral but Norah was too cold…poor thing was shaking in her stroller, so we headed back to the hotel because really we all needed naps anyway. Lol





After naps, we were thirsty! Good thing there is the Guinness Storehouse…and on St Patrick’s Day no less. They had appetizers and live music. A pretty cool U2 cover band. It was quite the party. The Guinness served here really is better. Anything shipped out of Ireland has to be pasteurized and this really changes the texture and flavor of the beer. I still didn’t think it was anything amazing… But it was good.









Note the skill in the pour…he poured a 4 leaf clover in the head foam from the tap! Bravo.





Norah and Donna were done for the night- but we had dinner plans.

I had made reservations at L.Mulligan’s Grocer, a cool little restaurant and bar I found online. It did not disappoint.

I had a Saison beer to start and Kegan had a really dark ale.



We had Scotch Eggs and Black Pudding appetizers





Kegan had a wild boar stew and I had pork belly on a whim because Kegan ordered what I was going to… This was cooked so that the skin on the top basically became a pork rind. I cannot emphasize how amazing this was. Haha 





I’m a food porn picture taker…better get used to it 🙂

So, we didn’t see everything we had hoped to…it was freezing and rained a bit… But overall, it was a really good day! 

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